Monday, April 25, 2016

Is There a Christian Vote?

The Christian vote, what is the Christian vote?  What does it mean to vote as a Christian or to vote Christian values?

Christians do NOT agree on many things, even with respect to Christian doctrine and theology Christians disagree—this is why there are literally thousands of Christian Denominations.

So why should we expect Christians to agree when it comes to politics?

Christians are to be found across the full political spectrum.  There are left leaning and right leaning Christians and independent Christians.  There are radical conservative Christians and there are traditional liberal Christians, as well as left of center and right of center Christians.  There is no united Christian voting block!

Therefore: No Christian has the right to assert that his or her political position is authorized by God and sanctioned by Christ.  Christians are to bear in mind that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world.  That is, the kingdom of God is separate, distinctly different than any earthly kingdom, nation, or rule (including Christ’s values, principles, and laws).

That being said, of course Christians should vote their conscience.  But that’s the point: as it turns out, each person’s conscience is individual and therefore has somewhat of a unique voice.  I may be convinced that such and such behavior is acceptable (NT example: eating meat sacrificed to idols), while my sensitive and conscientious Christian Brother may be convinced of its wrongness.  In many cases, we probably won’t know who is right or wrong until we meet God face to face.

Christians disagreed over right and wrong behavior even in the New Testament times, even while they still had with them such great teachers as the Apostle Paul to turn to for answers—even so, apparently Paul’s answers were not good enough to keep a church from dividing.   Don’t believe me?  Read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians!  Then read the fourteenth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

So Christians are treading on dangerous ground when they start assuming that their particular way of voting, or their particular candidate, or their particular political bent, position, or leaning, is the only right and good one, solely approved by God.  To invoke God’s name in support of one’s political view or position is, in my opinion, in danger of breaking the command that says, “Thou shalt not take God’s name in vain.”  The sin of taking God’s name in vain is to invoke God’s name in behalf of one’s own advantage, gain, or empowerment, thereby belittling the Holiness of God.  For God is above all human political engagement and interaction.

Another point that is often overlooked, or deliberately ignored, is that God is as concerned with HOW we hold our position (when we think that we are in the right) as much as He is concerned with the rightness or wrongness of the position we hold.  (See for example Proverbs 24:17-18.)  God gives very little credit to one who, believing he/she is in the right, assumes such self-perceived rightfulness with hate and mean-spiritedness or contempt for the one he/she believes is in the wrong.  Christianity has come to call such a person, “Pharisaical.”  Note: Jesus condemned very few people; but He didn’t hesitate to speak against the Pharisees.  (Carefully read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew’s gospel to see what I mean.)

So, when it comes to the “Christian” vote, yes, of course, as a Christian you may vote and should vote your conscience: Support your candidate.  Persuade as many as you can that your particular political position and platform is the best one to go with, if that is what you believe.

But think again before declaring that your particular political position and persuasion is the same as God’s, or is sanctioned by Christ Himself.  It is not.  God is God.  You and I are mere humans, with very natural human thoughts, feelings, leanings, and wants.  Hence, let us not belittle God by assuming that we have God all figured out and know that God is on our particular political side.  It dishonors God and it turns politics into something that is inaccessible and non-negotiable between believers, let-alone non-believers, reflecting simplistic black and white thinking and accompanied by good-against-evil posturing, resulting in absolute polarities and irreparable division.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Panama Papers Confirm What We Already Know about the Super-Rich

Hide your money.  Avoid taxes.  Keep private.  Stay under the radar screen.  Be anonymous so that the exercise of your privileged wealth and power go undetected and therefore remain unchallenged.  This is what the so-called “Panama Papers” tell us about the wealthy.  Something we underlings should already know.

The wealthy do not want to be scrutinized.  They do not want their financial and business activities to be made public.  They like anonymity and secrecy, to invest, and especially to profit, by hidden means and through unseen channels.  For them, such clandestine activity leads to more power and more wealth, which in turn gives them even more influence toward more self-serving outcomes.  More means more!

Historically speaking, this is also why there have been and continue to be popular revolutions and uprisings within kingdoms and nations?  It’s always about too much money and power accumulating in the hands of too few people.  When the people have finally had enough, they rise up against the economic injustice and oppression of their wealthy powerful overlords, kings, or oligarchs.  It’s about money, power, and control and more money, power, and control benefitting only a small fraction of a populace.

The extremely wealthy of any nation-state tend to set-up and/or take advantage of economic systems that allow them to grab and take, and exploit the commoner.  The system then tends to directly and/or indirectly impose and inflict exacting taxes upon the general public, while the extremely wealthy escape sharing the same public burden.  This tendency is exactly what the Panama Papers demonstrate.

We Americans pride ourselves in our great democratic, capitalistic system.  Nevertheless, I believe that the system is breaking and is favoring more and more the super wealthy.  For example, it takes money, lots and lots of money, to get elected to office these days.  In comes Super PACS!  These financial entities are established in order to directly influence political outcomes and are free to raise unlimited sums of money to rise up or bring down political candidates.  Meanwhile, the money-backers remain anonymous—and this is absolutely legal!

This kind of secrecy is not only dangerous it is detrimental; it is a cancer to a healthy democratic political system.  I’d even go so far as to say that it tends toward evil.  For, remember, money corrupts!  The wielding of extreme amounts of secretive money is corruptive.  That is why regulation, checks and balances, and open books, openness and transparency, is always necessary at all levels in order for an economic system to remain healthy so as to benefit all classes, rich and poor alike.

Kudos to the person that gave the public the Panama Papers and kudos to the news media and journalists who are working hard at reading the millions of documents in order to shed light on what was supposed to be covert, dark and secretive transactions made by sneaky super-wealthy world leaders and government leaders and other oligarchs who, until now, thought they could get away with it.  But it is not enough.

It would seem that the American democratic system has worked out well enough, so far.  It has done so because over the decades this country has tried to maintain some systemic integrity—to be a government for the people by the people and of the people.  But we’re losing control.  The top one-percent is gaining ground, getting more and more control, having more and more of their own way, while the rest of us are paying for it.  This is not good for our long term future!

If anyone needs to “take back” America it is the people, over-against the wealthy one-percenters.  The younger generation knows this, in their guts; this is why they so eagerly welcome a political voice like Berny Sanders.  Corporate America, big business, the Wall Street wealthy One-Percenters, they DO have to be taken-on and put back in their place.  For example: Why should the commoner pay hefty taxes to rebuild and sustain a solidly working infrastructure for this nation, while the super-wealthy do all they can to avoid paying their fair share of taxes that should help pay for such infrastructure, yet still benefit from the same infrastructure they have refused to pay taxes for?

We need to glean more from the Panama Papers, what they reveal and who is disclosed.  We are so quick to pounce on the street thug for his crime.  We need to also be as quick to pounce on the Super Wealthy Oligarchs for their crimes as well.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Adversarial Politics Is Destroying US

This is war!  Elect me because I will fight for you.  If my opponent wins he/she will destroy America.  I will fight all the way, to the bitter end!  They are the enemy!

We need to take back America!  Meaning what?  That America is in control of enemy powers?  That America is being held captive by the enemy?  Or that America is under foreign control?

American politics is a battle ground.  Take no prisoners—no comprising.  We must not lose; they must not win—no middle ground, no give-and-take.

Apparently there are two very different Americas, red America and blue America; and it would seem that the two colors not only disagree as to political policies, practices, and principles, they actually despise each other.

Each side seems to believe that the other side is an evil despicable political enemy.  Why else, for example, would the one side refuse to even consider (process) the other side’s Supreme Court nominee—until after the election year is over—distaste, distrust, dislike, disrespect and distain for the other side; that’s why.

It is a politics of hate and war and antagonism.

Even within one’s own party (with respect to either party) the primary strategy is one of creating antagonistic battle grounds—attack and destroy, take-down and take-out!

And our antagonistic electoral process seems to get worse each election season precisely because of its battlefield approach.  Hostilities escalate until the enemy is absolutely destroyed or is so weakened that full surrender is the only option.

And so today we have a situation where a core constitutional procedure (the nomination of a Supreme Court Judge) is being absolutely blocked by one political party—which goes exactly against the Founding Fathers’ intentions; for, given the way they had setup the process, they had actually hoped to minimize the encroachment of raw political power-play into the nominating/selecting process of a Supreme Court Judge.

But here we are.  Contrary to what they’d have us believe—such as saying that they believe that the American people should decide—it is not about highly held American principles and values.  Rather, it’s raw political warfare.  It’s a political battleground.  It’s treating the other side as the enemy, holding out, aiming to win the war—where they hope the winner takes all—believing that they must/will win!

It seems that American politics is now nothing more than a naked grab for power and control, and the backing of money, to ensure full control is wielded and maintained for as long as possible.  American voters are mad because instinctively we know that we are actually mere pawns in the political process.   We sense that there are greater political forces pulling strings behind closed doors and that we’re simply being used.  Politics is no longer about us, the American people.  It’s as if we’re damned if we vote and we’re damned if we don’t vote.  Either way, the American people lose.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Please Explain Trump's Popularity

Call me thick headed or just slow but I still do not understand why people like Donald Trump.  How is it that he is considered real presidential material?

I see that people respect him because he’s considered a successful business man.  Yet, wisdom tells me that a person’s wealth is not a true measure of a person’s quality.  Wealth does not automatically mean a person deserves respect.  Besides, Donald Trump is NOT self-made.  Not, let’s say, like a Bill Gates is.  Trump got help from his dad.  I will grant that he is certainly a shrewd man, in his business dealings.  But not all shrewd wealthy business people are good quality people?  Think about it: A mafia boss can be a highly successful and very shrewd man of business; but does that qualify a mafia boss for the presidency?  I don’t see how simply being rich or being a shrewd business man should result in the respect and honor that Trump seems to be getting.

I see that he’s confident and direct.  Supposedly he tells it like it is.  But does he?  Fact-check websites show this to be wrong.  He often backtracks, twists the truth, changes reality, and calls it as he wants it to be, not as it actually is.  This is what I see.  Sure, he says what’s on his mind.  But saying what’s on your mind is not the same thing as honest transparency or speaking direct truth.  Likewise, he takes no guff and he can dish it out as much as the next guy.  So!  Why does it not seem to matter that he comes off as a bully?  Apparently that’s a good thing.  He’s no fan of tact and diplomacy and people applaud him for this.  Why?  Call me slow, but I do not see these as strengths.  Why do Trump supporters see them as such?

I grant you that he is quite a character, but he is not a man of character, from what I see.  He’s proud and arrogant.  And that’s appealing?  I’d say that he’s an egotistical megalomaniac (megalomania = noun: 1. in psychiatry, a symptom of mental illness marked by delusions of greatness; 2. an obsession with doing extravagant or grand things).  Yet, people respect him for it.  I don’t understand this?

I don’t trust the man.  And, I believe that those who do trust him are just gullible.  I have very little respect for him.  For the life of me, I don’t see how anyone can either respect or trust Trump.  I wouldn’t want him as a friend and most certainly would not trust him as a business partner.  I think he is brash, conceited, and impetuous.  Yet people are actually willing to entrust him with the presidential office of the United States of America.  Why?

So, if you support Donald Trump for the presidency, I have to ask: Do you actually believe that Donald Trump is a real man of integrity, a solidly GOOD man?  If so, what makes you so sure that he is?  Where is the evidence of his genuine honesty and integrity and trustworthiness?  I see plenty of evidence to the contrary.  Again, check the facts against his statements whenever there is a controversy over things he’s said when he’s challenged with quotes from his own mouth.

Then I have to ask: Do you actually believe that Donald Trump is a wise man?  Does he demonstrate deep penetrating insight toward hard and complicated problems?  Or are you just assuming that anyone with his kind of money must automatically mean that he is full of deep wisdom and insight?  Or is it that you actually like his simplistic, black-and-white thinking?  For him nothing is complicated; every challenge has a simple answer, requiring no serious thoughtfulness or penetrating insight.  Is that how you see things too?  Are life’s challenges really that simple?  Are the answers to difficult problems really that easy to come by?  Or, does being wise and insightful not really matter to you that much?  If not, tell me why not?

Last question: Is Donald Trump a temperate man?  Is he balanced and even-keeled.  Does he demonstrate appropriate restraint and self-control in hot volatile, explosive situations?  Does this particular quality even matter to you?  For, I do not see such a quality in Donald Trump.  Is this not a serious flaw, not to have such a quality in a man who desires the power of the presidency?

So it seems to me that there must be something more, something else about Trump that the rest of us, non-Trump-supporters, are not getting.  What is that precisely?  What do you see in him that the rest of us do not see?  And why do you NOT see all the red flags, the warning signs, the negative aspects about him, which the rest of us DO see?